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IEC TC 57 Power system control and associated communications

Draft IEC 61850
Communication networks and systems in substations

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The standard IEC 61850 is being developed by IEC TC 57 Working Groups 10, 11, and 12. The objective is to allow for seamless data integration across the utility enterprise using off-the-shelf international standards.

World-wide, electric utility deregulation is expanding and creating demands to integrate, consolidate and disseminate real-time information quickly and accurately within and with substations. Utilities spend an ever-increasing amount for real-time information exchange; costs for system integration and data maintenance are exploding. Development and sharing information among all industry participants on critical resources (e.g., critical T&D equipment) is one of the most crucial issues for reliable power systems.

The objective of IEC 61850 is to dramatically improve device data integration into the information and automation technology, reducing the costs for engineering, commissioning, operation, monitoring, diagnostics, asset management, and maintenance and increasing the agility of the whole life cycle of a substation. The standards applied in IEC 61850 (e.g., Ethernet, TCP/IP, XML for system configuration, and MMS) define and exchange real-time data and metadata.

IEC 61850 differs from most previous utility protocols in its use of object models of device functions and device components (logical devices composed of logical nodes and data objects). These models define common data formats, identifiers, and controls, e.g., for substation and feeder devices such as measurement unit, switches, voltage regulators, and protection relays. The models specify standardized behavior for the most common device functions, and allow for significant vendor specialization. These models support multivendor interoperability and ease of integration.

The protocols make use of the reduced bandwidth costs and increased processor capabilities in the end devices to carry metadata: 2000+ standardized classes with their names and types are specified for the most common device information which can be used by applications for on-line verification of the integration and configuration of databases throughout the utility. Examples for measurement metadata are "unit", "offset", "scale", "dead band for reporting", and "description". This self-description of the data (stored in the devices!) reduces the cost of data management (configuration), and reduces down time due to configuration errors.

Compatible logical node classes and data classes (61850-7-4) and
Common data classes (61850-7-3)

One of the primary tasks has been the development of some 100 models (semantic and syntax) for various functions in a substation. A brief excerpt of protective function models is listed below. Part 7-4 defines 2000+ name tagged information (part of data objects) like vendor name, software revision, switch position status, current phase A measurement, enable function, or control. Data objects are typed according to common data classes in 61850-7-3.

Semantic of Logical Nodes


Data Objects

Basic relay object


EnaFct, BlFct, Test, OperCntR, GI, LNMode, OperCntR, ...

Zero speed and underspeed


..., LNMode, OperCntR, StartVal, OpTimDel, RsTimDel, ...

Distance protection


..., StartVal, DistTyp, DirSpvEna, PoRch, PctRch, Ofs, PctOfs, ...

Abstract communication service interface (ACSI, 61850-7-2)

The ACSI provides a common set of some 40 communication services for data access, reporting, logging, control applications and related support. The ACSI services are abstract and are mapped to existing communication application layer standards. MMS (ISO 9506) is the service specification applied in 61850-8-1.

Communication profiles (e.g. 61850-8-1)

Similar to current Internet solutions, IEC 61850 provides a network solution to interconnect data sources within and between utilities for real-time applications. Ethernet has been chosen as the main solution. IEC 61850 makes use of a family of international protocols. IEC 61850 includes two primary 7 layer profiles (OSI standards and TCP/IP).

The following three working groups are involved in the specification of IEC 61850:

WG 10:  

Functional Architecture, Communication Structure and General Requirements

WG 11:

Communication within and between Unit and Substation Levels

WG 12:

Communication within and between Process and Unit Levels

The parts of IEC 61850 are as follows (most parts will reach CDV status by end of 2000):


Introduction and overview




General requirements


System and project management


Communication requirements for functions and devices


Configuration Language for electrical Substation IEDs


Basic communication structure for substations and feeder equipment - Principles and models


Abstract communication service interface (ACSI)


Common data classes


Compatible logical node classes and data classes


Specific communication service mapping (SCSM) - Mapping to MMS (ISO/IEC 9506) - Station bus


Specific communication system mappings (SCSM) - Serial unidirectional multidrop point to point link


Specific communication system mappings (SCSM) - Process bus


Conformance testing

The IEEE TR 1550 Utility Communications Architecture (UCATM) has been used as major input for IEC 61850.

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